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GC In The News

Good Cheer’s many miracles

South Whidbey Record / DECEMBER 26, 2012 · UPDATED 12:00 PM 

By Kathy McCabe

As we enter the holiday season — traditionally a time to reflect upon miracles — let me share with you the “everyday miracles” that I witness at Good Cheer Food Bank.

The miracle of compassion: Good Cheer volunteers do the day-in, day-out work of running our food bank and thrift stores. These amazing men, women and teens radiate compassion toward neighbors on South Whidbey through their smiles, nonjudgmental attitudes, and helpful hands.

Most clients are a delight to serve and incredibly grateful, but some who suffer from mental illness, or who are hardened by a painful life, can be difficult. Yet I have never seen our volunteers be anything but kind and patient. Despite an increase of food bank clients, our volunteers serve others in a way Mother Teresa described as “loving without getting tired.”

This week a woman came to the food bank at closing time after our volunteers had already served a long, busy day. She needed food because her abusive husband was being released from jail and she and her children were going into hiding that evening. Our volunteers stayed late and helped this woman with compassion and a renewed sense of energy. Isn’t it a miracle that the more we share, the more we have; the more we empty ourselves through service, the more we are renewed?

The miracle of faith: I’m not necessarily referring to religious faith, though that is dear to many of us, but rather an unshakable faith that life will get better. It is more than mere hope; it is a perseverance of the human spirit. I see it in many of the clients we serve.

Just yesterday a woman sat in my office — a bubbly, effusive woman — who was widowed several years ago, underwent chemo and radiation for cancer, who was then unable to work and lost her rental apartment as a result, and who now lives in a broken-down bus. Yet this woman didn’t feel sorry for herself. She believed that things would get better, that she would work again, and she was incredibly grateful to Good Cheer, not only for food and fresh produce; more than that, she was grateful for the smiles, the social interaction, and the compassion that she experiences here.

The miracle of needs met: Another woman, approaching 60, is a miracle in her own right, having been diagnosed with cancer at 22 and a survivor of 38 surgeries for multiple forms of the disease throughout her life. Last year, she missed one health insurance payment. The insurance company then required an immediate payment of three months in advance at a cost of several thousand dollars. She could not pay it and is now without insurance. Due to the cancer treatments in her mouth and throat, she relies upon a feeding tube in her stomach through which she pours a liquid meal product, to survive.

Last week she was running out of this meal product, and had started watering it down to make it last. She came to the Food Bank hoping we could help. When we found several donated cans on our shelves, tears came to her eyes because these donated cans gave her the extra time she needed to figure out a workable solution for the future.

Things like that happen in our food bank: A mother finds gluten-free products for her child with Celiac’s disease, or a senior finds a low-salt or low-sugar product for a restricted diet. And this is also a sort of miracle, because we don’t have the funds to regularly stock such items. They arrive via food donations from our community… often just in time.

The miracle of 50 years: Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is that this December we celebrated 50 years of Good Cheer’s existence. The miracle is that on South Whidbey we have created a hunger-free community and, with your help, will continue to do so. We do it for the 868 families who depend upon our food bank each month and the low-income families who rely upon our thrift stores.

Donors like you are a large part of the miracle that is Good Cheer. Writing a check may seem like a small thing, but just look what happens: your donation becomes a miracle in the form of food on our shelves, food which feeds local families in need.

Thank you, in advance, for being part of the miracle.

Kathy McCabe is the executive director of the Good Cheer Food Bank.


Lots of needs met, thanks at Good Cheer Food Bank

South Whidbey Record Sports, South Whidbey School District, South Whidbey Fire/EMS
DECEMBER 22, 2012

Even amid rising need at the Good Cheer Food Bank, staff had plenty to be thankful for.Photo courtesy of Good Cheer | Kathy McCabe, left, and Jay Ryan, right, receive a plaque on behalf of Good Cheer from County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, second from left and state Rep. Norma Smith.

They had 180 volunteers who stocked the food bank and worked at the thrift stores. They had fulfilled thousands of requests for food. And they helped children buy gifts for their families from the Good Cheer thrift shops.

South Whidbey Assembly of God hosted and prepared a banquet of chicken, vegetables, rice and cheesecake for Good Cheer’s volunteers Saturday. Espresso was available from Whidbey Coffee, too.

“It was such a nice treat for Good Cheer volunteers who often are taking care of someone else, to be pampered and fed,” said Shawn Nowlin, Good Cheer’s community outreach coordinator, in a press release.

And Good Cheer needs happy volunteers this month. As of Dec. 19, 700 families had shopped at the food bank, and the food bank manager predicted that December’s service record could be broken this year.

“We’re well on our way for December,” said Good Cheer Food Bank Manager Karen Korbelik. “That’s pretty significant.

“I have a feeling it’s going to be really big because of the weather.”

Food drives around South Whidbey and at schools helped supplement the need for food donations. Though the food bank could still use donations of canned goods, soups and peanut butter.

“That’s always a nice thing to fill the shelves so people can stock up on the winter,” Korbelik said.

Good Cheer celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. The theme for the gathering was “local,” and Good Cheer leaders wanted to continue that idea this holiday shopping season. Good Cheer thrift stores will give a 10-percent discount for any receipt from a South Whidbey business brought in within a week of the receipt’s purchase date.


Good Cheer Food Bank has busiest day in its history

NOVEMBER 27, 2011 · 9:22 AM / South Whidbey Record

“That’s 261 people,” said Good Cheer community outreach coordinator Shawn Nowlin.

That’s up from 94 households, which was the previous high for one day.

“It’s definitely a record,” Nowlin said. “The line was out the door from before we opened to just before we closed for the day.”

Well more than a third of the food distributed at Good Cheer typically goes to children and seniors.

Nowlin said that 28 percent of those served are children, 62 percent adults and 10 percent are seniors.

“Fortunately, thanks to the way we’ve purchased food this year, we have been using our money wisely and have been able to keep food on the shelves,” Nowlin added.

If this week’s high numbers of visitors to the food bank continues, Good Cheer might have a hard time sustaining itself with food on the shelves. What is currently needed, Nowlin said, are cash donations to pay for immediate necessities.

An average of 784 people were served per month in 2010. That number is currently at 824 per month. Nowlin said that one way folks can help is shopping at the Good Cheer stores.

“That way everybody wins,” she said.

According to national reports, inflation has increased by 8 percent in the past two years. But in the Puget Sound region, inflation is at 13 percent and climbing. That’s scary, Nowlin said, for Whidbey Islanders with high heating costs.

Recently the food bank surveyed a number of its clients to learn about what is most helpful to them and to provide feedback to its volunteers, staff and the community.

“We also like to get a sense of who we’re serving,” Nowlin said.

What was revealed (besides many comments that had the staff teary eyed) was that in the past three months the clientele has changed decidedly.

“We’ve had people who have not come in for years, or who have never come in,” Nowlin said.

The sobering fact for the food bank is that the number continues to grow, Nowlin noted.

“It was a pretty powerful day on Monday. It’s a day like that that reminds you why you do all the work you do through the year, knowing that day is coming,” she said.

Luckily, there was a full team of volunteers who kept the shelves stocked Monday, Nowlin said.

In the survey, clients added comments about, among other things, what they wanted people to understand about food bank users. One comment summed it up succinctly: “That we are just regular people having a tough time in this economy.”

Good Cheer executive director Kathy McLaughlin is thankful to be part of an organization that makes a real difference in the lives of those in need.

“When people read headlines about unemployment and high poverty rates in the U.S., it doesn’t quite translate into how people are affected in our community,” McLaughlin said.

“What clients shared on this survey puts a human voice to the needs, the worries and the profound thankfulness clients have for the food bank and the community which supports it.”